By Glenn Guilbeau / GANNETT LOUISIANA
BATON ROUGE – LSU inched up another rung on the Southeastern Conference ladder by doing just enough to beat No. 9 Mississippi State 2-1 in front of 5,739 at Alex Box Stadium Saturday night.
Trailing 1-0 after the fourth, No. 20 LSU took the 2-1 lead in the sixth. Mark Laird singled after one out. Alex Bregman reached first base after bouncing one hard off State starter Ross Mitchell, who was charged with an error. Then Kade Scivicque singled in the tying run and moved Bregman to third. Chris Chinea followed with a sacrifice fly that nearly cleared the left field wall.
LSU starter Jared Poche (6-2) allowed three hits and the one unearned run through 108 pitches for the victory. Joe Broussard struck out two and allowed one hit in two innings for his seventh save. Mitchell (5-2) took the loss after allowing two runs on five hits in six innings.
“Really a big win, I can’t lie to you,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We wanted it really, really bad. I’m so proud of the team, especially Jared Poche. And we found a way to scratch a couple of runs across.”
The Tigers (23-8-1, 5-5-1 SEC) can go over .500 in the SEC and sweep the series Sunday at 1 p.m. in the series finale after getting swept last weekend at Florida. Mississippi State (20-12, 6-5 SEC) was in first place in the SEC West before the series started.
“It’s what we talked about coming into the weekend,” Scivicque said. “We wanted to get the sweep at home to get back on the right track. It’s going to be very big for us to keep it going.”
The starting pitchers for Sunday’s game are both to be announced. Mainieri is considering junior left-hander Kyle Bouman (3-1, 2.17 ERA), who is coming off an ankle injury suffered on March 17 and threw for the first time on Wednesday. State coach John Cohen is considering sophomore right-hander Preston Brown (3-1, 1.95 ERA), who developed a shoulder problem late last week.
“It would sure be great to get over .500,” Mainieri said. “If we don’t win, we’ll be back under .500.”
Cohen hopes to stay around for all nine innings or more Sunday. He was tossed in the third inning by home plate umpire Joe Judkowitz for vehemently arguing that State hitter Jake Vickerson was a victim of catcher’s interference when he grounded out to first base. Cohen charged from the dugout and could be seen saying, “You’re a bad umpire,” during replays.
“I don’t get thrown out a lot. Not once last year,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on it. But I know how difficult it is to be an umpire. We all have differences of opinion. There is going to be situations where we don’t agree.”
State took a 1-0 lead in the fourth courtesy of a catcher’s interference that awarded Derrick Armstrong first base after two outs with Brett Pirtle on second after a walk and a wild pitch by Poche. Demarcus Henderson followed with an RBI single.
“They got some hits to fall for them. We didn’t,” Cohen said. “I thought Poche pitched very well, and they did a good job of situational hitting. They hit it to the right spot at the right time. When we had our chances, we didn’t do it.”